T.J. McConnell may be making his teammates better these days, but he insists it’s a two-way street.
“When you play with guys this talented, it makes the point guard look good and makes the point guard’s life easier,” he said, after getting 10 assists in UA's 79-58 win over Texas Tech on Tuesday. “I’ve been saying all year, credit to them. They’re making the plays. I’m just getting them the ball.”
But just as McConnell finished, Nick Johnson interjected this:
“And we’ve gotta make more shots,” he said. “Because he shoulda had 13” assists.
The Wildcats actually shot 50 percent from the field and 45.5 percent from three-point range. But Johnson’s comment, while joking, speaks to a strong bond between the two junior guards.
“T.J. and him have a real good relationship on the court,” UA coach Sean Miller said. “They find each other.”
Johnson actually made a career-high four three-pointers on Tuesday in six attempts, after going 3 for 12 from beyond the arc during two games in New York last week.
He’s now making 38.9 percent of his three-point shots, after hitting 39.3 percent last season. The difference is that he’s the team’s most prolific three-point shooter so far while he was barely the third-most last season, behind Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill and just one attempt above Kevin Parrom.
“Nick can really shoot the three,” Miller said. “He was a 40-percent three point shooter a year ago. He didn’t shoot a lot of threes but we had a couple of players on the team who did that.
“He’s an improved three-point shooter and he’s going to be very consistent this year. Gabe York and T.J. are two others.”
Another three-point shooter, at least when open, could be forward Brandon Ashley.
Ashley hit two open threes Tuesday, after making no more than one in any previous career game with Arizona.
“With Brandon, a wide-open three-point shot for him is really a good shot for our team,” Miller said. You haven’t seen it yet but I see it every day. You can tell he’s really comfortable shooting. It’s not as if he’s going to shoot a challenged three-point shot but an open one for him opens another dimension to our offense and it was good to see him knock those down.”
The Wildcats are scheduled to be off today but guess who's likely to punch in the security code in the Richard Jefferson Gym doors today?
Aaron Gordon hit 4 of 10 free throws on Tuesday after appearing to turn a corner with a 7-for-8 performance from the line over two games in New York.
“He’ll probably shoot 300 free throws tomorrow because nobody feels worse than he does that he missed them tonight,” Miller said after the game. “But that’s also what makes him good.”
Gordon is now a combined 20-for-41 from the line, a 48.8 percent mark that is an Achilles heel to a college career start that has lived up to or exceeded almost all expectations.
Miller indicated he’s not worried about it.
“He’s going to have times maybe where he doesn’t shoot it well, and unfortunately today was one of those,” Miller said. “At Madison Square Garden he hit some of the biggest free throws of our season. I have no doubt he’ll settle in at a percentage that’s higher than his current percentage.
“Sometimes he’ll have a game like this. But I think he’ll also have some games where he’s comfortable as well. He’s continuing to improve. And the one thing you don’t worry about with Aaron is his work ethic. He’ll put the work in."
Here's the official box score.